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Lord Whitty: My Lords, had the House followed my advice at an earlier stage, these are the kind of amendments which it would have been very sensible for us to return to the House of Commons for consideration. The arguments relating to the uplands and fell packs are slightly different from those for hunting with horse and hound. Therefore, either a blanket exemption, as the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, proposes, or a confinement of registration to uplands, as my noble friend Lord Sewel proposes, could in that context have been considered.
I feel that we are not in that situation. Nevertheless, in the normal exchange between the Houses, serious consideration would have been given to either of these amendments. I must criticise just one point on the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood. Whatever our approach, simply being traditional is not grounds for exemption from the test of cruelty. Therefore, I would not have been prepared in any circumstances to support that exemption as it stands.
Lord Sewel: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken on the amendment. It may be necessary briefly to clarify what Amendment No. 2 would do. It would keep registration as the cornerstone of hunting, but it would limit hunting to the less favoured areas. I want to make that clear because I judge from several contributions that it may not have been fully appreciated.
I shall deal briefly with the points made. The noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, asked whether farmers would be aware that they were in an LFA. My experience in the agriculture department of the Scottish Office showed me that every farmer who is in an LFA is well aware of the fact, and certain brown
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paper envelopes that arrive with cheques are greatly appreciated. There is no problem about awareness of being in an LFA.
Lord Sewel: May I deal with the noble Lord's second point? There is the problem of cross-boundary issues. The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, dealt partly with it. It is not a new issue in these islands. Whatever happens with this Bill, the legislative regimes relating to hunting north and south of the border are different. There will be a cross-border issue between England and Scotland in any case. There will be cross-border issues, but they can and should be resolved.
The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, asked, I think, about foot packs. The point in the amendment is that foot packs in less favoured areas would be registered if they satisfied the conditions of registration.
Viscount Astor: My Lords, as I understand it, the noble Lord's amendment would allow hunting to continue in less favoured areas, but there is nothing in it that relates specifically to foot packs. If it were possible to ride a horse up the hill in the relevant area, that kind of hunting could continue.
I must say something as gently and as strongly as I can to my noble friends Lady Mallalieu and Lady Golding and the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. I recognise and appreciate the passion that they bring to the argument and their worthy attempt to apply principle at every turn to every aspect and nuance of the argument, but I must say that I think that there is a great danger that total and complete adherence to principle will, in this case, lead to total and complete defeat. That would be a tragedy.
I do not think, on the basis of our debate today, that it would be appropriate to force a Division on the amendment at this stage. However, I hope that it will be possible to return to something like the amendment even at a very late stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 19, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 20. Amendment No. 19 should be understood in conjunction with Amendment No. 20, which gives the Secretary of State power to commence the Hunting Act by order. Without the amendment, such a commencement order would be subject to approval by a resolution of each House, under Clause 47.
With Amendment No. 20, the Act would come into force on a date determined by the Secretary of State but not before 1 December 2007. The reason is that the amendment would also require the Secretary of State to commission research from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons into the relative pain, suffering or distress caused to wild mammals by hunting with dogs compared to other methods of managing the wild mammal populations. The proposed delay in commencement would allow the completion of the research. It would also provide sufficient time for the registrar and the tribunal to be established and resourced. Three years is a reasonable time for setting up the registration process and for the research to be completed.
The need for such research is unquestioned and has been demonstrated or admitted in many quarters. It relates particularly to the test of least suffering in Clause 7. The present lack of such research into questions of relative suffering was highlighted in the Burns report. In the report, the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and his committee noted the "lack of firm information" on the issues. They drew attention especially to,
"I find it difficult to accept the use of the Parliament Act in circumstances in which there is no clear scientific support for the animal welfare implications of a ban".[Official Report, 12/10/04; col. 146.]
There are four legal methods of control: shooting, trapping, hunting with hounds and terrier work.
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Illegal methods, which were discussed earlier, include snares, gassing and, I believe, poisoning. We know from recent research that wounding by shooting often causes great suffering. Of the other methods, we have personal impressions but know too little about comparative suffering. In any case, different methods of control have variable suffering consequences, depending on the skills and competence of the individuals performing the control method.
I remind the House that the test of least suffering requires the applicant for registration to prove that another method to achieve the same ends would not be likely to cause significantly less pain, suffering and distress than the hunting method proposed by the applicant. In the absence of scientific research into relative suffering from the various methods, how can the registrar make a judgment? In that context of ignorance, it is right and a logical implication of the registration system, which this House has overwhelmingly supported, that necessary research is conducted by relevant experts: the Royal College can fulfil that requirement.
We note that the present Bill specifies three months for implementation; the House of Commons has suggested an alternative. But three months is a quite impossible target for the proposed system. It would not be possible even to appoint a registrar in that time, let alone establish the registration and tribunal process.
These amendments propose that appropriate research is conducted in order to enable the registrar to reach proper, evidence-based conclusions. They provide a reasonable time-frame for the research, as well as for the registrar and the tribunal to be established. I beg to move.
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